David was a smart 13-year-old who came from difficult circumstances. Sean Hubner was a supervisor at Orchard Place's PACE Juvenile Center. Who knew that their lives would intersect in a profound way at PACE, and David would not only find the help he needed to get his life on course but also would find a loving foster family?
David's life was at a turning point in 2003. David's family did not put much care or attention into his well-being, and David ended up living with a family friend who couldn't parent him as bad habits such as drug use and poor academics escalated. David was basically homeless, earned poor grades and rarely attended school, and was into marijuana. David also had a lack of maturity, respect and responsibility, all things which would have led to more severe trouble in the future.
David was a child in need of assistance, and in 2003 the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) brought him to the attention of a PACE caseworker.
David was in eighth grade at the time. PACE Juvenile Center often works with juvenile delinquents like David - angry kids from difficult family and social backgrounds. Many are juvenile delinquents handled by Juvenile Court; others have mental illnesses. Some, like David, are referred by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Whatever their path to PACE may be, these children receive the care and attention needed to put their lives back on the right course.
Sean was the supervisor for David's caseworker, and he was struck by David's intelligence. "I knew he could be an excellent student and he had smarts," says Sean, "but he needed direction that his situation wasn't providing." Sean knew academic excellence and strong male role models would be the keys to David's success. David related to male role models at PACE including Sean, John Spinks (Vice-President at PACE) and others. Absence of belonging helped David realize he could succeed at PACE.
David began to conform to the center's rules and improve his grades and study habits. PACE staff also helped David resolve his past issues, including drug use and a disrespect to female authority figures. Sean says the plan was to surround David with as much care as we could, creating a blanket effect that gave David a chance to replace bad habits with good habits. David spent a year within the PACE program. During this time David's family also received regular check-ups from PACE staff to help improve David's family life.
David's Gifts Emerge
David not only improved his grades and study habits, but he also learned he had a knack for computers, technology and engineering. While at Des Moines North High School, David attended engineering classes at Central Campus and designed three homes that are planned to be built in Des Moines in 2009. The Des Moines School Board commended him for his outstanding performance and David is now enrolled at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, with a bright future in computer engineering or another computer-related field.
Sean says David's main goal right now is to graduate college, and his plans after school are not yet decided upon. Sean is convinced that David would not have graduated high school, let alone attended college, if PACE had not intervened. "He would have been moving from house to house, an outcast, continued using pot, college would not have been an option," Sean says. "Another statistic on the street. Ended up in jail or real trouble."
"I took advantage of everything that was provided," David says.
David Becomes a Part of Sean's Family
The DHS caseworker who initially brought David to PACE was also the person who recommended Sean be his foster father. Sean and his wife, Michon, had received their foster care license just a year before and he knew it would be a big undertaking, but he and David had developed a strong bond during David's time at PACE. Sean and Michon were both excited to take David in, but it was also David's decision too. It must have been an easy decision for David to make, because he accepted in just ten minutes and within three days he had moved into Sean and Michon's home in Des Moines.
The transition was rough for David at first, but it has now been four years since he moved in with Sean and Michon and he calls them Mom and Dad. "When we hear that we know we did everything we could," Sean says. Sean and Michon did not give up on David, and this made all the difference: once David understood he would not be abandoned and had a loving family much different than what he had, things turned around. Early on David never told Sean and Michon he loved them, but a couple years ago Michon was doing work around the house and David spontaneously hugged her and said he loved her. Before then David had not given Michon much respect so this was a major breakthrough. Even today David continues to strengthen his social and family bonds thanks to a stable family life at home.
Sean and Michon also have an adopted four-year-old son, Jake, and Jake and David are best friends. David has proven to be a great role model for Jake and the two watch out for one another. "David would lay down his life for him," says Sean. The idea of Sean and Michon adopting David has been brought up, but David has decided against it for now.
Sean, Michon, and the staff at PACE have had a tremendous impact on David's life. The care and support David got at PACE helped open his eyes to what is important: education, family, friendships and character. "You need education in this crazy world, set goals, reach limits, build relationships and don't worry about abandonment," says Sean. Sean and Michon often tell David they love him and are proud of his accomplishments, and David, with his typical sense of humor, replies, "I'm proud of you guys too!"